NIGHT MUSIC for Violin & Piano is a sonic exploration of nighttime, my favorite part of the day. Night is the period when my musical ideas are at their most introspective and romantic, yet I also feel the most musically energetic once the sun has set.
I. “Lullaby for a Starry Evening”
A lullaby, as the name implies, is almost always intended to lull a baby to sleep. It is also typically “performed” by untrained singers, desperate to soothe their restless child. So in writing the first movement, I strove to write a lyrical composition that was simple to the point of fragility, in a sound world of utmost tranquility and peace. In order to achieve this delicate atmosphere, I had to in many ways ignore the typical rationales, schemes, and methods that so often guide my voice as a composer. Instead of establishing a broad spectrum of dynamic contrast, the entire lullaby needed to be soft and hushed (in fact, not a single forte can be found in the music). Instead of dealing with dense counterpoint and complex rhythmic structures, the various musical lines gently undulate back and forth in simple, even predictable ways. And instead of devising a complex tonal scheme, I decided to keep the entire work in virtually the same key (after all, tired parents aren’t too likely to try modulating their little songs into distant key areas!) As a result of all this compositional restraint, this is quite consciously the most straight-forward, simple piece I’ve ever composed.
Throughout “Lullaby for a Starry Evening,” I imagine a parent singing softly to their child while the light of the moon enters the window, filling the room with a luminous glow. Outside, the starlit sky is full of dark, heavy clouds, and the only sounds are those of rustling leaves, gentle billows of wind, and perhaps a stray bird or owl gently singing their own night songs.
In contrast to the first movement, “Flurries” is an ebullient piece brimming with energy from the onset. The title is a pun, suggesting both a light, quick snowfall as well as a flurry of notes. Despite having left my sunny 4-year home of Los Angeles, where I completed my undergraduate work at the University of Southern California, I actually found adjusting to the harsh winters of Ann Arbor to be a relatively easy transition. This was no doubt due to the incredible beauty of the winter weather we received, each storm bringing with it an abundance of brilliant white snow. Although the winter certainly had its gloomy moments, with its omnipresent darkness and frigid cold, the environment still buzzed with a radiant energy. How could a composer not be inspired to write music evoking the shimmering energy and delicate grace of a mid-winter flurry?
—Jules Pegram (2014)